For the fifth time in a row, Liverpool have failed to get past the fourth round in the FA Cup in the season following an appearance in the final. The victors on this occasion were Oldham Athletic, and a few statistics from the match make it clear why they triumphed.
Liverpool’s main mistake initially was probably starting with such a young team; only two of the outfield ten (Suárez and Skrtel) were over 23, and the stats show how the young Reds side were outmuscled and outgunned.
In the Premier League this season, Liverpool have won 49% of their ground duels, and 54% of their aerial duels (which is the second most in the Premier League, according to the excellent EPLIndex), yet Oldham restricted the Reds to winning 45% of the ground duels, and just 42% of the aerial battles.
Although Oldham were allowed by referee Lee Probert to get away with some agricultural tackles, in fairness they did defend superbly.
The Latics blocked ten of Liverpool’s twenty-four shots, whilst the Reds didn’t block any of Oldham’s. The home side also made a whopping thirty-nine clearances today, as a Liverpool side largely devoid of ideas only completed three of twenty attempted crosses.
Whilst I’m not overly bothered about going out of the FA Cup, my greater concern right now is how flaky Liverpool seem to be when put under pressure.
The Reds have had a lot of clean sheets lately (seven in their last fourteen matches in all competitions) which is very encouraging, but in the last eight games when they’ve conceded, it has been two-or-more goals seven times, and the only team to only score one goal were non-league Mansfield Town. Whatever the reason is, Liverpool seem to fall apart when they concede at the moment.
Brendan Rodgers’ men batter teams that let them play, but crumble when teams hassle and press them, and that’s exactly what happened today. It doesn’t get any easier for the Reds, with their next two matches at the Emirates and Etihad stadiums, so hopefully the rested Agger, Johnson and Lucas can return to provide some defensive solidity.
Lord knows Liverpool need it from somwhere right now.